Life Changes and the Marathon (+1 mile) Debut!

17288818846_7391035fea_oI realize that this post is long overdue considering it has been almost 8 months since my last blog post.  The life changes that have occurred over those 8 months have been nothing but crazy and unexpected.  During my 5th year of college, I decided that I really wanted to get into coaching at the collegiate level at some point…little did I know, a perfect opportunity would fall into my hands in mid-September.  After a lot of support from Andrea McDonough, my parents and friends, I accepted a full-time coaching position at the University of Toledo.  I packed up my life (I was crashing in someone’s basement in Ames so I didn’t actually have that much) and moved to Toledo, OH.  Little did I know, ,the new job was exactly what I needed-being surrounded by young women who LOVE running and have a desire to be great athletes.  I quickly learned what it took to recruit and realized how much of a pain in the butt I was as an athlete in college.  In my first few months, I apologized to my previous coach for being so high-maintenance because being in her shoes made me re-appreciate everything she did for me.

After taking a few months to adjust to a new town, university and job, I decided it was time to get back to training.  When I was still training in Ames, I considered running a marathon but it was quickly put on hold when I moved.  One afternoon in early March, I was sitting in the office with Coach Nguyen and the AD of Business (Tony-big running fan BTW) when I decided that I just needed to sign up for the Glass City Marathon and not overthink it.  After a quick email to the elite coordinator, I pulled the trigger and signed up with 8 weeks to prepare.

I was really excited to debut and I had rough goals for the big day.  I knew that the course record was 2:51 and there was a $500 bonus if you broke that so I had my eyes on that…all I could think was 6:30’s all day long.  I hadn’t practiced hydrating or fueling during any of my training runs until the week of the marathon so I was a bit nervous on how that would go.  During a 12 mile run on the Monday prior to the marathon, I tested out a Clif Shot and once I got past the funky texture, I realized it wasn’t so bad so I went with those.  The track team at UT had a meet Thursday-Saturday before the marathon so I froze my butt off two days in Michigan and was on my feet a lot so I went into race morning with an open mind but knew what my goals were in the back of my mind.  My parents took the 10 hour drive to Toledo because  they refused to miss my first marathon and that made the day a million times more special since I hadn’t seen them since Christmas and they have always been my biggest supporters.


When the gun went off at 7:02 on Sunday morning, I immediately knew that my biggest issue was going to be patience during the first half.  Coach Nguyen (head coach at UT) gave me the advice of breaking it up into three parts: first 10, second 10 and the final 6.2 miles.  The first 8 miles flew by-the atmosphere was amazing and the course was gorgeous as we weaved through Ottawa Hills neighborhood and Wildwood Metropark.  I was feeling great around 10 miles so I decided to slowly pick up the pace because I could see both first and second place ahead of me.  The 11 mile mark was going to be the first big test because I needed to consume half of a gel and I also decided to take the lead.  After washing the gel down, I realized that my pace was dropping and people on the course were telling me I was on the Olympic Trials Qualifying pace (I hit 13.1 miles in 1:22.24)!! If that doesn’t motivate a runner, I don’t know what would!  At mile 20, I passed my parents and heard I was averaging 6:11’s so my momentum and adrenaline was going crazy.

The roadblock came at roughly mile 21 when I was leaving Wildwood Metropark and the race officials directed the lead bike to the right.  When I approached the intersection, they told me to turn right and even though I questioned it, I wasn’t going to run away from the lead bike.  After running 1/2 mile down the path, a golf cart sped by me and told the lead bike we were running in the wrong direction.  As soon as we turned around, my mind was racing and all I could do was run as hard as I could because I didn’t want to lose (there was $2000 on the line and let me tell ya, at 23 years old, that is ALOT of money).  At that point, I knew running sub-2:43 would be impossible but I knew the course record was still in reach.  At about 26 miles, I caught the lady who had taken the lead from me (she was directed the right way at the intersection) and then at mile 26.2 on my Garmin, it read 2:41…

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face because at the end of the day, you can’t be upset when you’ve accomplished something new.  Yes, seeing 2:47.22 instead of 2:41 was a bit depressing but I was grateful to have finished the race and LOVE the distance (minus the extra mile).  I cried briefly when I realized a goal that I have had since middle school was taken away but then I saw my parents and couldn’t help but smile.

The next day, I found out via Runner’s World that the course was USATF certified but not sanctioned so I could not have qualified for the trials anyways.  That did make the blow not so bad but it would have been great to see 2:41 behind my name.  However, I am grateful for all of the support from family, friends, the race director and people I have never even met but who have heard of the story.  It made me realize how wonderful the running community is and it has made me more excited about tackling my next marathon where I am bound determined to officially get the OTQ!!!

Doing things the conventional way was never my style in high school or college when it came to running  so why in the world would I start now?!!  Sometimes God makes your journey a little more difficult to keep you humble and hungry.  Yes, there is nothing I want more than to be at the line of the Olympic Trials on February 13th and I will do everything in my power to get there, however at the end of the day, I am young and if it’s meant to be it will happen and if not, I will train relentlessly until it happens.

Words can not express how thankful I am for anyone who has reached out over the past few days-the love has been overwhelming and I hope that I have inspired someone out there to go after their dreams.

Also, a huge thanks to Runner’s World for the awesome article!!!

3 thoughts on “Life Changes and the Marathon (+1 mile) Debut!

  1. I saw this Samantha! Hell-of-a great story and race. A bummer in a small way, but a truly memorable story for sure. We would love to trumpet this story and your blog on AthleteBiz (if you’re up for joining us). Our audience would be fascinated by this, and interested in getting to know you.


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